Shifting Sands in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia | November 13th, 2018


(general chatter)>>Well, good evening,
everyone. Good evening. Thank you so much
for coming out on a very chilly
Michigan evening. I guess you wanted to hear
about Saudi Arabia tonight. This would be a fine time
to do that on a cold night. Thank you
for coming. I’m Michael Van Denend, and
I’m the Executive Director of the World Affairs
Council of Western Michigan. On behalf of Emily Smith and
Erica Kubik, my colleagues, we’re really glad
you’re here. This is the third session
of a four-part series on the Arabian
Peninsula, and we have had just
a delight so far. I don’t know– how
many of you were here for one of the
first two sessions? Oh, quite a
few of you. That’s great. We learned about Oman,
we learned about Qatar, tonight
Saudi Arabia, and, a week from
today, Yemen. And if you’ve been
to the ones before, you’ll know that
every country has a very, very
distinct history. Of course
it does! We know that about
our own country. And to really understand what’s
going on in the Middle East, you really need to study
each country individually, and understand why
they have developed, how they’ve
developed, and what are some of the
issues that turn out of that. So we’re delighted that
you’re back for that, and I want to thank so
much our series sponsor, SoundOff Signal
from Hudsonville. They’ve been a great supporter
of the World Affairs Council and they’re supporting
this particular series. SoundOff is one of
50 local businesses that supports the
World Affairs Council, and all of our local
colleges and universities, and a shout-out two Grand
Valley State University, where Dr. Alrebh
comes from. And also the Seidman
School for hosting us– we’re really
grateful for that. We’re hoping to have
about 30 or 40 minutes of presentation
from our professor. And then, we’re gonna
open it up for questions, and he– and we– are
anticipating many of them. You did a great job in
our first two sessions. There were some
excellent questions, and we expect nothing less
from the audience here tonight. I also wanna look
out for Cathy Dopp. Where’s Cathy?
There she is. Cathy is a member
of our Council, and, as usual, she is gonna
host a conversation group after tonight’s
presentation. She does this very often–
we appreciate that from Cathy. She’ll be at
New Holland Brewery. She’s got a
table reserved. And if you hear things tonight
you wanna keep talking about, Cathy and other
Council members will be around the tables
continuing the conversation, so thanks to
her for that. And we encourage
you to do that. So without
further ado, let me introduce
Dr. Abdullah Alrebh for you. He is Assistant
Professor of Religion and Sociological Theory at
Grand Valley State University. He is an academic
and author with research interests
in the Middle East, Arabic literature,
and Islam. He earned a PhD from
Michigan State University, and also a Master’s
from MSU in Sociology, and he has a Master
of Arabic language from King Saud
University. He’s published a number
of academic articles and book chapters
focusing on religion, the Middle East, social
movements, and education. His major interest
is Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic
mobilization in Gulf Cooperation
Council countries. Before coming to
Grand Valley, Dr. Alrebh was a visiting
assistant professor at MSU, and a faculty member at Saginaw
Valley State University. Please join me in welcoming
Dr. Abdullah Alrebh. (applause)>>(with accent)
Hello. I know I have
a loud voice, so I’m not that
rude person but… maybe, yeah. Many people
misunderstand me. I start to talk, they
think I am rude because I have
a loud voice, so I don’t think
I need the mic. Okay. You think so?
(laughing) (audience chuckling) Okay, thanks for
coming tonight, and thank you, Mike, Erica,
and all the various Council for this
invitation. And I hope I will
deliver a good speech. The only challenge
I have tonight is time. My parents used to
complain about me that when I start talking,
I don’t stop… but I will try
to stop on time. (chuckling) Yeah, Saudi Arabia. The country that occupy 80%
of the Arabian Peninsula, and… the homeland of Islam,
where Mecca and Medina that used to be called Jatrib
in Bible and in the Torah, in west coast of
Saudi Arabia. And in east coast, we
have the oil reserve, so people know
about Saudi Arabia, based on those two basic
pieces of information. All Muslims today
when they pray, they stand
toward Mecca. In the United States,
this will be northeast. So it’s a really
important country, and we hear a lot about
Saudi Arabia in the news, and a lot of involvement
in the world affairs. Saudi Arabia today
is the third version of the ruling of
the House of Saud, back to the 18th century
when Imam Mohammad ibn Saud– and in that time, “Imam”
mean the “religious man” and “Imam” mean the “ruler
of Muslim society.” Imam Mohammad ibn Saud, the fifth great-grandfather
of King ibn Saud, the founder of
Saudi state today, met with Sheik Muhammad
ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of
Wahhabi movement, that we will know about
it as “Wahhabism” today, met in Diriyah. Diriyah was a
small town. I think it’s in
size of Allendale, no more than that
in this time. It was the core of
Saudi Arabia today. They met and they
shared their interests about expanding
the rule of Saud, with Wahhabi lessons
and teachings of Islam. And Wahhabism is not a
sect, it was a movement– a Sunni movement
that adapt humbly, which is one of the four
main schools in Sunni Islam. So they start establish
their first state, and years later, in
early of 19th century, it had been collapsed
by the Ottoman Empire when they give
the order to… the governor of Egypt,
Muhammad Ali Pasha, to collapse
this country. It’s happened. About six years later,
they get back, same families,
House of Saud, and house of
Al ash-Sheikh. Mohammed Abdul
(indistinct) family re-establish their
country again, and called– and managed the
central part of Saudi Arabia where Saudi
story start. Later, the friends
that turn to be enemies are Rashidi’s family in
Ha’il, north of Arabia, fought with the
House of Saud and won, and take over the Arabia,
especially the center of Arabia, until early of
20th century when the young son of the
last ruler of Emirate of Nejd decide to get back
of the family glory from their exile
in Kuwait. Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman
ibn Faisal ibn Al Saud, or as people know him in the
Western academy as “Ibn Saud,” he led his group,
60 individuals from Kuwait– their exile in Kuwait to
Riyadh to get Riyadh back, then establish
his empire state. We call it “empire”
in political science because it start with a
small part and expanded. So this is the story
of Saudi Arabia. Let’s start
from small part, he get
Riyadh back, and then start to get the
rest of central of Arabia, and move east and west,
north and south until he gets the
rest of parts. There are many
interesting stories we don’t have time
to share today, and I will be more
than happy to answer any question regarding
this part of history, but the most important
two pieces of history, of expanding
a state– when he took the
eastern part of Arabia. In that time,
there was no oil. People were not
aware about oil, but they were aware about
the east part on the Gulf as the window to
deal with the world. In addition, it was
rich by agriculture, especially palms
and dates. West part, when he fought
the Hashmiat family, that being ruled by the
great-grandfather of the current
Jordanian king, and he took Mecca
and Medina, which add more religious
legitimacy to this new state. Before declaring
the kingdom, his best friend, Ikhwan,
being brother in Arabic, and they are different from
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, those people revolt because
they want more theocracy compared with
the modern state. Ibn Saud was not interested
in honoring them, so they get
in conflict, and he went,
in 1930– in 1932, he declared the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so he put all those territories
under his last name, so people now be addressed by
the House of Saud family name. We will go through the
history of the kings. As usual, what we study in
Middle Eastern countries and historic curricula,
usually we go by kings. Let me apply
this method, and we will see
through the history how the country
being developed. After declaration
of the kingdom, Ibn Saud turned from the fighter
who is carrying the sword to be the king who is
ruling his modern country. There are three shifting
points in his era as a king from
1952 to 1953. The beginning of the
modern Saudi state– so in that time, he tried to
borrow people from other places, even outside the (indistinct),
he get people from Iraq, from Egypt, from Syria,
from Lebanon, in addition to some
people from Hejaz, the worst of
Saudi Arabia, and shape his
first government. So basically, the first
Saudi government mostly non-Arabian
people. They are Arab, but they
are not from Arabia. Until people get more
education and take over. Discovering
oil in ’30s, and when British companies
give up searching for oil, there was a British guy
called John Philby… convince Americans to
come to find the oil, and they found
the oil, it was more
than economy. So Ibn Saud met
Franklin Roosevelt in 1940s, which shift the
whole political alliance from Great Britain to the
United States of America. They met, President Roosevelt
was so smart, he learned a lot
about Arabic culture before he met
King Ibn Saud. There is really
interesting story, if you guys
read about it, how they greet
each other, and they start
personal relationship which lead to strong
alliance in the future. After Ibn Saud passed away,
the problem of succeeding. It used to be a
serious problem everywhere in the
Arabic history but looks like it
was a peaceful way that the oldest son
King Saud takeover. So they start to form
the Council of Ministers, Instead of having four
ministers during Ibn Saud era, in the last year
of Ibn Saud era, he shaped the
Council of Ministers and appoint his son,
Prince Saud, as the Prime Minister,
and he kept this title, which become a habit
that every king in Saudi Arabia become
the “Prime Minister.” King Saud take
advantage of oil. So he founded the first
university in Saudi Arabia called “King Saud
University.” In that time, it used to be
called “Riyadh University.” I get two degrees from
this largest university in Saudi Arabia–
Riyadh. In that time, it was
really serious hard time as leftist movements, people
who believe in communism, revolt against monarchies
in the Middle East. It sounds exactly like
what we see in Arab Spring but in a different way,
as we will carry ideology of leftist
Marxist things, many kingdoms have been
collapsed, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Egypt for sure,
in Libya. All those monarchies
have been collapsed. This was challenge to the
authority of the kingdom that based its authority
on conservative Islam. And Abdel Nasser
of Egypt was not in favor
with Saudi Arabia as a strong monarchy
that has money. In addition, there was
a serious rivalry between Prince Saud
and the Prince Faisal– uh, King Saud and his brother,
the Crown Prince Faisal, and each one has
different vision of how to rule
the country, and they used to be the most
powerful sons of Ibn Saud. This rivalry stay
for almost 11 years, until it was clear that
the house was divided. People who are pro-Saud, and
people who were pro-Faisal, people who were
pro-Faisal win, and decide to say goodbye
to the King Saud. And that
happened. When the third brother,
Prince Mohammad, get to the castle and say,
“Thank you, King Saud, “we will proclaim new king,
our brother Faisal.” He stay alive
for 40 years. He enjoy his freedom,
travel everywhere, and he passed away in
Athens in Greece later. After 40 years. Sorry. King Faisal established
the contemporary method of how Saudi Arabia
should be ruled. So there was long debate about
how we can rule Saudi Arabia, and he established
a new method that we should not
go by the eldest one, we should go by he has been
selected by the family. And this went– the
next brother Mohammad was not favored by
other brothers, so they bring Khalid, the
full brother of Mohammed to be the Crown
Prince of Faisal. This new method save the country
for the rest of the years. We can consider Faisal
as the godfather of the foreign
affairs. He was the first Minister
of Foreign Affairs, and he kept this position
after he become a king until he passed
away in 1975, and passed it
to his son, who stayed as the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, or what you guys call
“Secretary of State,” until he died
in 2015. So basically,
in Saudi Arabia, we have only three ministers
in the whole history. Faisal create another way
of facing Nasser of Egypt. Nasser believed
in Pan-Arabism, Faisal believed in Islamic
(indistinct)– Islamic nation that can bring the
identity of Islam, rather than the
identity of Arab people. In that time, King Faisal
and his lovely wife, Iffat Al Thunayan, his cousin that been born
and raised in Turkey, and after she came from
Turkey to Saudi Arabia, she wanted to bring some
of the modern things that she saw
in Istanbul, so she convinced him to
establish the women education, which was not in favor
with the Wahhabi (indistinct), or the Wahhabi clergy
in that time, but he start the women’s
education in that time, which is a progressive
step in ’60s, compared with the
neighboring countries, especially with
the role of Islam and the really tight
interpretation of how women should be
treated in that time. People know Faisal mostly
in the United States, and I can tell
some people here about his name
and he was a king– I can see
from faces– by oil embargo will he challenge
United States policies during the war between Egypt
and Syria on one side, Israel on
other side, so he declared
the oil embargo, which caused a
serious problem, and raised
the gas price. How much the gas
in that time? Anybody
can tell me? I don’t know. I think some people
know about this. Yeah?
>>(indistinct).>>Then, it reached
a dollar? Am I right? So people will really,
really unhappy with that. Yeah, and he was the man
of “Time” magazine in 1973. It was really the biggest
story in that time in media, and not only Faisal,
even his Minister of Oil, Sheik Ahmed
Zaki Yamani. I think people who followed
news in that time heard this
name a lot. Two years later… Faisal was assassinated by
his nephew, Faisal bin Musaid. There was a story
about that, that Faisal Musaid has a
personal issue with King Faisal, that one of his
brothers was killed in demonstration
against government, because of establishing
the TV station, Riyadh, so Faisal give an
order to police to shoot those
demonstrators, and his nephew
(indistinct) Musaid killed. Later, his full brother,
Faisal bin Musaid decide to kill
his uncle that order shooting
against demonstrators. So… Saudi Arabia kept
its stability. It was a peaceful
transition to power. King Khalid
take over later, in ’70s, and it’s the
first time we see something close to the
British model of governing. We have a king
who has a glory, but he was not interested
in involving in politics, so he assigned most of his
duties towards his brother, the Crown Prince
King Fahd in that time, Prince Fahd. In that time, oil
generate a lot of money, and the government
start to invest this money in interior policies
and foreign policies, more than– I don’t
remember exactly, 30 percentage
or 40 percentage had been spent on establishing
infrastructures of the country– three universities,
the Royal Commission, in Jubail and Yanbu, two
big cities of industries, being established one
in the east in Jubail, east province, and one in Yanbu,
the western province, and create a
lot of jobs, and a new sort of
economy in Saudi Arabia. More universities, more
educational developments, some scholarships
in that time. Then in 1979, the
major challenge– the first challenge
based on religion against Saudi authority
was in 1979 when a group of
people decide to hijack– uh, kidnap
the holy mosque in Mecca for
a few days, until Saudi authorities
take the mosque back and arrest those people and
execute them in one day. There were
56 individuals who participate in
this siege of Mecca, and all of them have been
executed, and it’s done. So in that time was
acting guy is Prince Fahd. So some people
might think, “What the choice these
people should take? “Should they become
anti-Islamist, “or what should
they do?” At this point, we should
understand this– those people– group of–
small group of people that think about a way of
challenging the Royal family, so they take their own way
of interpretation Islam, so, at this point,
Prince Fahd, the crown prince
in that time, decided to support
Islamists, and slow down
the modernity, so even the
Saudi TV in that time reduce the entertainment
part of the TV. Not a lot of songs, they start to put more
people with hijab on the TV. Not only this. It’s useful to use those
people to serve other things. How? King Fahd decide to– after
he become a king in 1982, decide to support
President Reagan in his doctrine
against communism. So in United States, they
consider communism as enemy, because communism is
against capitalism. Let’s get those people
in Middle East and Saudi Arabia
and Egypt, who were excited to fight
the enemies of God, and there’s no way of
convincing them to fight those people other
than communism mean they don’t
believe in God. So all of them being
in Afghanistan fighting Soviet Union
and they win. So that’s what happened
in that time. And to enhance the Islamic
face of Saudi Arabia, King Fahd
decide in 1986 to change the title of
King of Saudi Arabia from “his Majesty” to “The Custodian of
the Two Holy Mosques,” and you can guys imagine how
modest image he will impose at this point by shifting
from “Majesty” to “Custodian.” ’80s went just fine
until Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait
in 1992, which threatened the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all the
Gulf countries. So President Bush
sent his troops, and many other
countries make alliance against
Saddam Hussein. They win the war, so what happened
in Saudi Arabia? People who come
from Afghanistan and believe they
are heroes of Islam, and even “New York Times,”
“Washington Post,” portray them
as heroes. The term “jihad” and
the term “mujahideen” in the 1980s was
completely positive, and I bet those people
read the news in that time, and remember, they know
it was really positive. So when
they get back, they feel shocked how
the king let non-Muslims, or the term “kafir,” “infidels”
protect Mecca. That’s what
they think. Even Osama bin Laden
himself was shocked. What happened
in that time? They challenged Saudi authority,
a lot of demonstrations, so the government
take care of them, arrest those people that we can
call them the clergy of Sahwa. And it’s done as
organized method of challenging
the state, however they start
to attack Saudi and American
interests everywhere, until we reach
September 11, 2001. So all those
tensions in ’90s, based on what’s happened
in Afghanistan, so how Reagan doctrine
support those people, when they’re done with Soviet
Union, they still have energy, and they have
long experience. That’s what
happened. Before his health
get with problems, especially with his throat,
King Fahd decided to establish the basic law of
Saudi Arabia. It’s not the
constitution, but it just explain how the
Saudi government should run, and who has a right to be
a king and crown prince. And in 1995, he
suffer from stroke, which make him transferring the
power but keeping the glory. So from 1995, Prince Abdullah,
the crown prince, take care of the government
as the de facto leader. Then, when Abdullah
become a king, for the first time, we
see the power of division is more clear. Abdullah become a king
in the age of 81, and his other brothers,
other three brothers were strong enough and
controlling big institutions within the country, so
it was collective power running the country
in that time. Abdullah was interested in
modernizing the country, but in this age
with sharing power, it was not enough to
do all what he what, and even the
senior brothers. The most major things
changed in that time, dealing with
post-September 11, so at this point, he decides
to support education, a large scholarship
program. I am one of the people who
benefit of the program, be sent to the
United States. 70,000 Saudi individuals sent
in that time to United States to study. The United States
and other countries to study whatever
they want. And this is the flag
of the program. He establish
KAUST– “King Abdullah University
of Technology”– which is a large
postgraduate university that hosts many foreign
scholars and students. And he supports
some women’s rights. He let women to get–
this is– by the way, this is
campus in Saudi Arabia. Yeah, this is not
in (indistinct). You see those
sweet ladies? They don’t wear abaya,
and yeah. But they cannot do this
outside the campus. So okay. So after King Abdullah
passed away, his Crown Prince Salman
become the king, and he reformat the whole
issues in Saudi Arabia, so the real family
being reformatted, people who
are in power from third
generation… the grandson of Ibn Saud
raised over their uncles. The structure of the
government being changed, they merged some
ministries, they changed the rules of
different governmental devices in that time, and he decided
to transfer the power to the next generation
by appointing his nephew Prince Mohammad bin Nayef
to be the king– uh, the crown prince, and later, appointing his
son Mohammad bin Salman– the one that you guys see
in the news every day today– as the crown prince
and the de facto ruler of the country
today. Mohammad bin Salman
today has a lot of dreams that
he share in the media. As a (indistinct), he’s
problematic in the media. You see a lot of people
either supporting him or against him. He is the sole leader
of the country today. He has many
projects. Neom, the big city in
northwest Saudi Arabia that has a lot
of projects, and will cost
billions of dollars. He allowed women to
drive a few months ago, and established, for the
first time, movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. We used to go to Bahrain
to watch movies. (audience laughing) Yeah, I was fortunate that I
live one hour away from Bahrain, so every weekend,
Saudis invade Bahrain. (audience laughing)
Literally, yeah, we invade
Bahrain every– and we changed a lot of
cultural things in Bahrain. We have a Bahraini
friend here, Dr. (indistinct), he may talk
about it if you guys want. Then, if we think
about foreign affairs, he declared
a war against the former President
Abdullah Al Saud, and his supporters
who he grew. And the war has been for
more than three years today. The conflict with Iran
became more obvious, as the political game between
the two major countries start to be
more warmer, and they cut the relationship
with each other. And extending the
positive relation with the United States
and Europe. As an individual, he try
to introduce himself as a modern
reformer, so he visited United States
several times, and Europe, to introduce
himself. His vision– 2030–
about economy and how Saudi Arabia
can transfer from oil to other sorts
of economy. And it’s a debate if this
vision will win or not, so that’s what we see
in the news today. I hope I cover most of
the major transitions of Saudi Arabia within
the Saudi history within those 30 minutes,
which was good. And let’s start
question and answer, and I will cover anything
you may ask about.>>Okay, so professor got us
up to the current point, and talked a little
bit about some of the many, many issues
currently going on. So now is your chance to
ask him some questions about, given all this history,
what’s happening now. Cathy?>>How does the profits
from the oil industry get distributed to the
citizens of Saudi Arabia?>>So Saudi Arabia
is a rentier state. It’s not a
capitalist state with the (indistinct) being
owned by private business. It’s not a communist
or socialist, about collective ownership
or government ownership. It’s being owned by
the government 100%, and the government has the
right to spend the money in the way
that they want, so it’s up to the government
as a rentier state. So at this point,
government is responsible about free
education, including free
higher education, but it’s
competitive. Free healthcare, and supporting some
sort of primary goods– that’s what government
try to do. In addition, most of
people in Saudi Arabia still work for
public sector that’s being owned
by the government.>>You mentioned 2030,
switching the economy from oil to something else. What is that? What is the major
plan to switch to?>>Yeah, we need the economists
to talk about this more– I am a sociologist
by training, but I’ll try to
answer this question. According to the
declaration of this vision, the current government led by
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman tried to create a new sort
of business in Saudi Arabia, more industrialization
other than oil… uh, media,
tourism, whatever. They try to bring more
diversity of business in Saudi Arabia, that’s
their vision right now. And we are
still in 2018, and the vision being
declared, I think, in 2016. So they try to bring
another sort of business other than oil,
that control over 90% of the Saudi
economy today.>>What’s the education or
school system like there? Is there tracking? Are girls educated
through high school, through
higher education? Is it public?>>Yeah, in
Saudi Arabia… in theory, the educational
system for both boys and girls– they are
separated– it’s almost
the same, okay? Until 2003, they used to be
led by two different entities, one for boys and
one for girls. For the higher education,
there was a third one called the “Ministry
of Higher Education” that’s been established
during King Salman era, and merge all those
institutions together. So girls have better
access to education now, compared with
years ago. So some measures,
it’s hard to find a university
accepting girls, especially
engineering. So most of female
engineers in Saudi Arabia have been educated
outside Saudi Arabia. Now, they open more
and more opportunities for women to involve
in these measures. The major problem is the
segregation of genders in Saudi schools. They still away
from each other, so I have never had
any colleagues, classmates
beside me, other than the
kindergarten years ago. So if you eliminate
colleges of medicine– so they have no choice,
they have to be together– all educational
institutions are separated, with one exception is
King Abdullah University, which is in Western style
and has its own rules.>>Is that the picture
you showed us?>>Yeah. Yes?>>When you spoke about coming
to the United States yourself on a scholarship with 70,000 students
were given scholarships– excuse me, when you came to
the United States to study on a scholarship, and you said 70,000 students
received scholarships, were there women
among those students?>>Oh yeah,
a lot of them. In that time,
anyone– especially between
2005 to 2007– anyone who want to go to
study outside Saudi Arabia, they could do it, no
matter of their gender, even their age– some people in their late
30s could get scholarships, and they give
some benefits, and this is a
major thing. They give benefit
for spouses to study. If an individual
awarded a scholarship, his or her spouse
are awarded. For example, I came here
having a scholarship, they awarded my wife
a scholarship, so that’s what
happened. So that makes no
excuse for a man if his wife ask
him to join her. If he say, “Okay, why
should I leave my job?” Okay, you will get
the scholarship. Not only this– they require
guardian with girls, so actually girls
cost more than guys. For example, if I want to
come here myself, it’s fine, but if a girl wants
to come here herself, she needed to find somebody
else to benefit him, so she get a husband,
or brother, or even uncle– I know some
people studied because of their daughters
awarded scholarship. Yeah.>>How much religious training,
teaching indoctrination goes on in the school system
in Saudi Arabia for Wahhabism to become more
embedded into society?>>Yeah, as you know,
in Middle East, especially with the
mandatory colonialism, religious identity
was really important in the whole
Middle East, because of the
foreigner troops. Saudi Arabia has almost
no foreigner troops in its territories, but it
is part of the identity. In public school, there is
a heavy religious lessons, so students study at least
four hours a week of religion, and when they go–
that’s in public school. When they go to
universities, you are required in
public education to
have eight credits– as religious credits as
part of general education. So you need to study
at least four credits, which is usually
eight short courses.>>The current next
generation’s leadership, he likes to present
himself as a modernizer. Now we have movies, now
we have women driving, but on the other hand, the
women who pushed for driving are in jail, some of them
with death sentences, and so I’m curious
of your take on him, and the potential for his
success as a modernizer, and what he means
by modernizing, because I know he had
the big economic forum, and he’s trying to create
new economic opportunity within the kingdom,
but as he does that, he also creates new
economic power sources within the kingdom, that
potentially are in conflict with the goals
of the family. So I see some real
conflicts there and I’m curious of
your take on that.>>Yeah, there’s a conflict–
nobody can deny it. There is a conflict,
and the media… outside and inside
Saudi Arabia are all but even. Those people who
call for change, again, nobody like to give
up the power unless there is a clear price
of giving up the power. So it’s difficult in the Middle
East to find these things, and when people protest
against government, they should be–
go with some issues, and as usually I say to
my students in class, we should differentiate
between two important terms, “right” and “real.” So as sociologists, we don’t
deal with the right things. This is in ethics
or ethical classes. In sociology classes, usually
we talk about the reality, so this is
the reality. And as an
individual, all that I hope is things
will be better in the future. With this young bloods
everywhere, we hope that the country
of Saudi Arabia will move to be even better
than what it used to be. And again, I
agree with you that Saudi Royal family
does not need any of these things in
order to impose its power, because it’s still the
classical belief of governance, it’s still strong. So that’s my take, and we
are dealing with reality.>>Going back to his
vision for 2030, he wants to diversify
Saudi Arabia into different industries
and businesses. Does that mean that these
businesses and industries will be privately owned, or will they be all
parts of the government?>>As far as I see,
private sector should separate in order to convince
those big companies to come to
Saudi Arabia, and it will be easier for
any country in this world to reduce its hand
on the public sector and let more capitalism
compared with rentierism, within the economic
system of Saudi Arabia, that is what I see by inviting
a lot of big companies, that mean voting more
on private business, and even foreigner
ownership. The foreigner ownership
now become more and more compared with what we used
to have 10 to 20 years ago. Yeah. And nobody, by the way,
nobody can escape capitalism. Yeah, nobody
can escape it. You can’t escape
capitalism, you can’t escape
dollar at all. (chuckling)>>Are the extremist
schools still being funded in Pakistan and
the Philippines through Saudi
Arabian funding?>>Interesting–
I’m not following what’s the financial support of
charity by Saudi government. I know that they be reviewed
after September 11, but I don’t think the
problem only with money, because Afghan war, that being
influenced by Reagan doctrine, and Saudi and Egyptian fund
by men and teaching… is the primary motivation
of the vision that you can see in Afghanistan
or Pakistan today. Yes, I think the fund has been
cut in a significant way, but is this the
only problem? I think the lessons of
teaching anti-Islam enemies that, in that time,
were communist, shift to be
Americans, because–
and Western things, because the discourse of
hatred against communist was in that time
mobilized as the enemies of
Islam, at that time. So after communists
become powerless in 1990, they started both–
mujahideen in Afghanistan. And I’m not talking
about individuals– Osama bin Laden, (indistinct),
or those people. The culture, the ideology that
we see there in Afghanistan, and even in
the countries that those fighters,
warriors come from, they shift to face America
and its difference, including
Saudi government. So yeah, when I answer it,
the budget being cutten, but the story
is not over, because the ideology
and mistrust in both parties
is still, and they still don’t
trust each other.>>If the government
funds higher education, is there any expectation
or encouragement for citizens to then
return to Saudi Arabia after they have
achieved their degree?>>Yes. It’s complicated because when
people get their scholarship, they have to sign that
if the government asked him to come to work,
they must come. Reality, the government
does not ask, because you know large
number of educated people, some of them may have a spot
and some of them not. Personally, I couldn’t
find a position because of the bureaucracy
of universities there, so I get a position here
faster than there, so I’m here now. I may get back one day,
I don’t know. I go to visit
Saudi Arabia every year, and I know some people
decide to stay outside, in United States, Canada,
Britain, France, Australia, and some of them take it
as temporary positions. They will go back whenever
they have opportunity, but the majority of
people get back.>>A question up here–
somebody up here?>>Oh, this lady?>>Concerning promoting
the rise of alternatives to the oil industry, would
you consider Saudi Arabia to have much of an
entrepreneurial culture, or there are a lot
of small stores that are run by
Saudi people? Are they run by
more nationals? Um, people starting
small businesses?>>Yeah, small business
with capitalism, they are not in
favor, you know? Indeed, small business used
to have stronger power compared with today, because
you know, with capitalism, smaller businesses face
a hard time to survive. For example, if we walk around,
we see Walmart, Meijer, and all those
big businesses, it’s hard to find a
small grocery store. In Saudi Arabia, we used to have
a lot of small grocery stores, compared with those
big supermarkets, like what we see with
Meijer and Walmart, and if we apply a grocery
business with other businesses, we can see small businesses
may face harder time in favor to the big business,
big companies, and (indistinct).>>With the
Yemen war, which hasn’t gone as
well as might be hoped, and the recent
events in Turkey, which certainly caused
significant uproar, is MBS’s position
within the family at all compromised, such that he now has
to reach more consensus with other members
of the Royal family?>>As far as I know, I don’t
see any sort of negotiation among the family, unless there’s
something I’m not aware of. The war of Yemen is one
of the debatable things in the news every day, and I
think we’ll hear more next week, with Professor
Gamal Gasim, when he talked specifically
about the war in Yemen. Though it’s unfortune that
we don’t have enough peace in the Middle East, and all what I hope, as
somebody from the area, that the war will stop and
everybody will be happy. It’s hard to make
everybody happy, but I think it’s just harder
to stop the war, though. That’s all what
I can tell. In terms of
compromising, I haven’t heard about
this in the media, or in political
analyzing, either in Arabic
or English sources.>>Are Arabic sources
covering the assassination of the “Washington Post”– I’m not even gonna try to
pronounce his name correctly. Are they
handling it– what’s the differences
from how Arabic sources are covering it from how
the West is covering it?>>Oh, it’s like the differences
of any other issue. (chuckling)
Indeed, I done my
doctoral dissertation in Michigan State
University, and realizing the newspapers
and stories of covering the authority in Saudi Arabia
in the 20th century, and those newspaper
stories that I analyze come from “London Times”
and “New York Times.” And when I read
about them, and try to compare them with
what we see in the news, people have
different takes. First of all, media
follow its supporter, no matter if it’s
in Middle East, it’s in Korea,
it’s in United States. Each single media
device is an agent to one of the political
entities in some way. Okay, in Arabic media,
for example, when they cover the issue
of Jamal Khashoggi, the writer that used to
write for “Washington Post,” we have two
radical groups. There is nothing
in middle. There is almost
no gray area. People who are pro-Prince
Mohammad bin Salman and people are anti-Prince
Mohammad bin Salman. Especially after
the Qatar crisis, a year and
a half ago, “Al Jazeera” start to
support the Qatari regime, because part
of the problem between Saudi Arabia
and Qatar was “Al Jazeera.” So we can see, some people
try to shine the image of Prince
Mohammad bin Salman, some other media devices try
to make it there is no doubt– Mohammad bin Salman is the
one who is behind this. If we try to take the
moment and think about it, and compare it to
the Western media, Western media has almost
more reasonable things. At least some of them, they
don’t have a lot of interest in the Middle East,
some of them, yes, they have. So the investigation that’s
being talked to media is part of the political game
that we can see today, a lot of Western media is based
on what Turkish government try to say, but to
answer your question about the
Arabic media, I see the Arabic media
mostly “dream” media. So people imagine
something and try to convince other people
that’s what’s happened. For example, if I go
to watch “Al Jazeera,” or watch “Al Arabiya,”
their rival, each one of them
will say something. One of them
say, “Oh–” “Al Arabiya” say
President Trump fully support Prince
Mohammad bin Salman, and he has no doubt that
he is away from that. Yes, President Trump
has never mentioned that Prince Mohammad bin
Salman was behind that, but “Al Arabiya” may shape
it any more elusive way. “Al Jazeera,” if
you watch it, you might think Prince
Mohammad bin Salman will leave his
position tomorrow. Here is the problem in
Middle East media coverage– you cannot trust, not because we don’t have
a lot of rational people, because the media
being supported by certain groups of people
that have interests. Same thing here– if
you see “Washington Post,” they have
personal things. Jamal Khashoggi used
to write for them, and his friends think
if they let it go, they will be attacked
one day by any other agent. “New York Times,”
they are Democrats. They have problem with Trump,
and also with Saudi Arabia. And what do we think
about “Fox News” and “CNN,” will find the
same issue. As you bring a really
interesting topic, Jamal Khashoggi issue, let me take a minute and talk
about it in a different way. Nobody talk about a major
player in this issue, the Turkish
government. Turkish government play a game,
nobody can doubt that. They try to
spread some rumors. We call them “rumors” because
we cannot say if they are right or wrong. Yes, some of them start as
rumors and become facts, that this guy get to his
consulate and be murdered, but when Saudi government say,
“Okay, he been murdered by “a group of people
without an order,” then they start to say, “We
have videos, we have tapes.” Where are they? If you say, “I bust into some
intelligence devices,” fine, but as public people,
how can we believe in those intelligence
agencies? No matter if they are
in the United States, in Britain, in France,
in Saudi Arabia, in Turkey, if there is
something we should believe, something we see or
hear by ourselves. what make me concerned
as a person is how Turkish government
play the game, and how they claim more
than what they have. Otherwise, why they don’t
just solve the problem? I think because it’s
intelligence game, and Jamal Khashoggi issue
will stay a puzzle forever. If we solve…
Kennedy assassination, we will be able to solve
Jamal Khashoggi assassination. (audience laughing)
And I am 41 years old, and maybe after 20 years,
when I become 61, I will meet you
guys in one place, and we will talk
about this puzzle. Yeah, I think the issue
has been done, most of it, and if there is any details,
they will remain as puzzle because it’s
media game, and we cannot claim that
this person, as individual, was responsible
about this issue, because people who defend him
may have a lot of good reasons. So again, it’s
hard to believe.>>(with accent)
Since 1960s or even before that, there was the domestic balance
of power in Saudi Arabia is based on the alliance
between three groups– the Royal family, the
religious establishment, and the
intelligentsia, those who were highly
educated in the West. So that balance of power
maintained for a long time. What do you
think about– to what extent the
current situation with the growing power
of Mohammad bin Salman, with the weakening of the
religious establishment in Saudi through
these reforms, with almost abolishing
all the religious police in Saudi Arabia, and also with the
high unemployment among youth
and others… to what extent is
the current situation, as a result of the
policies adopted, weakening
that coalition or that balance of power that
used to be ruling Saudi Arabia for four decades?>>Yeah, for
a long time, Saudi Arabia be ruled
by the Royal family, and having powerful person
was not a serious problem in Saudi Arabia. It’s about the policy
of this individual. I think the challenge that face
any ruler of Saudi Arabia, regardless if we think
about King Salman today or his son Prince
Mohammad bin Salman, or any other individual
who is in the position is how to make
Saudi people happy, and how to make the alliance
of Saudi Arabia happy? The decline of religious
authority in Saudi Arabia, I can think
it’s normal, with all the mass media,
the communication, people start to learn about
other sort of Islamic life. So women still
can wear hijab, but they can involve
in the life more, with this huge number of people
who used to study abroad, if we say
70,000, I think at least
50-something thousand get back to
Saudi Arabia. So the classic religious
face of Saudi Arabia will be changed anyway
with the current rulers, or even if we
change names. The challenge of making
the indigenous people in Saudi Arabia happy,
and the alliance– or the partners,
United States, France, Britain, and the European Union,
happy is a major challenge.>>Abdullah, we heard
a couple of weeks ago that the embargo on Qatar was
not being very successful, and that Qatar
had figured out a lot of ways to
get around that. And then, there
was some question about how is that
all gonna end? If it’s not
been successful, how do you think
that is gonna end? Is Saudi Arabia gonna just
pull back from that, or is there gonna
be some settlement, or how do you think
that’s gonna all end?>>It’s hard to tell the exact
scenario that would happen, but I think the problem
will be solved anyway. There was a
positive message being delivered by crown
prince 10 days or so ago, when he obliged the
Qatar economic system. He talk in positive way about
the Middle Eastern economy, and he include Qatar. This is a positive sign
from Saudi Arabia. From Qatari side, I
don’t know what happen. Qatar established more
advanced relationship with Iran
and Turkey, the two major non-Arabic
Islamic countries. So I think in the near future,
they will solve the problem. How? I think they will
have a major interest bringing them
back together. And there is always
a major interest when bringing neighboring
country together. But when? They may need
a year or so.>>So… in 1982,
which is a while ago, I lived in Kuwait, and the only news
source we had, the nightly news was
a 15-minute broadcast, 10 minutes of which
was video footage of who the king
was meeting, lots of people
showing up at airports. The invasion of
Kuwait by Iraq changed news sources in
that part of the world. All of a sudden,
all the villas grew satellite dishes
pointed at “CNN,” because they were worried
for their own safety, understandably so. But that clearly– what
I’d like you to address– is the changed
relationship, access to a
broader media base has meant for Saudi
citizens as they view and judge whatever judging
they are allowed to do, the rule of
the family?>>Media– I agree with you–
media before and after 1990, they are completely
different, people who was fortunate to
know English in that time, they start
to watch “CNN,” and Bahrain
television host “CNN,” and we all
watch “CNN.” I remember some
friends of my dad who work in Aramco,
when they visit my dad, and they say, “Oh, I hear
on ‘CNN,’ blah-blah.” This is not what
we hear in TV. Not only Saudi TV, because
I live in east coast, so we can see TV
from UAA, from Qatar, or from Kuwait,
even Iran broadcast and reach
Saudi Arabia, and at that time, they have
their Arabic programs. So we see all
those things, but they are different
from what we hear in “CNN.” Five years later, “Al Jazeera”
had been established, which make a motivation
to other countries to establish
their own TVs but non-governmental TVs. So “Al-Alam,” the
Arabic TV from Iran, “Al Arabiya,” the TV
that’s been founded by both Saudi Arabia
and UAA, and other TVs changed
people’s mind. We have a lot of
non-governmental TVs. Yes, we get rid of
most of those news that His Majesty
received this person, His Majesty travel,
but still His Majesty– and again, all the majesties
in the Middle East, either kings, emirs,
sultans, presidents, their news is everywhere
but without these protocols. Yeah?>>Time for one more– does
somebody have one more question? Nope– let’s thank Dr. Alrebh
for leading us today. Thank you.
(applause)>>How was it?
(applause)>>Thank you for
being here tonight. If you’d like to ask
a question of him yet, you’re welcome
to do that. Join us one week
from tonight, when we talk
about Yemen, and Dr. Gamal Gasim is here–
gonna be here with us. He’s here tonight, but he’ll
be with us again tomorrow– uh, next Tuesday– I’m sorry–
and will complete our series. Remember that Cathy will
be at the New Holland Brewery. And please check our website
out– worldmichigan.org. We have the great
decisions topics and most of the speakers
up on our website, and we’ve got some flyers
outside about that, too, that comes in
February and March. Thanks for
coming tonight.

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